Celebrating World Indigenous People’s Day With A Comic Book
Ikíitu Indigenous youth connect to their culture, language and ancestral customs with Nature and Culture’s publication of the comic, “El Último Kuraka.”
Each year on August 9th, people around the world celebrate Indigenous Peoples. It’s an important time to raise awareness around Indigenous autonomy and equal rights to their ancestral lands, native languages, and traditional customs. This year’s theme centers around Indigenous youth who have so much at stake in the struggle to maintain their cultural identity. That is why Nature and Culture, together with the Ikíitu people of the Indigenous community, San Antonio, Pintuyacu river, Loreto, Peru, produced and published the comic, “El Último Kuraka,” or “The Last Chief.”
Nature and Culture hopes to raise awareness around the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon by sharing their traditional knowledge.
Alongside our efforts to conserve forests, our team provides opportunities to strengthen the Indigenous identity of the local communities that help keep the forest standing. In this way, forest management is imbued with local understandings and experiences that have persisted for centuries. Written in both Spanish and the Ikíiitu native language, “El Último Kuraka” serves as written documentation of the cultural history of the Peruvian city of Iquitos (named after the Ikíitu people), the capital of the Maynas Province. We hope that this history is not only shared amongst the Ikíitu youth but spread to youth across the region and throughout Peru!
In the comic, hero Súkani, a leader with supernatural powers, is imprisoned by colonialists attempting to seize his people’s land. This traditional story was adapted by Nature and Culture from collected facts from the oral tradition of the Ikíitu people. During the 17th and 18th centuries, many Ikíitu were forced to join missions and displaced from their ancestral territories. The city of present day Iquitos bears the name of the Ikíitu people, in homage to the first residents of the area, although it is not known exactly when and who settled on the plateau surrounded by the Nanay, Amazon, Itaya and Lake Moronacocha rivers. The true story of the death of “El Última Kuraka”, Alejandro Inuma, in the the 1940s was decisive moment for the Ikíitu people because the language ceased to be used as a primary language and many customs began to be lost. According to data obtained by the Ministry of Culture, it is estimated that today there are only 519 people from the communities of the Ikíitu people remaining.
In the comic’s prologue, Inter-cultual Specialist, Elena Burga Cabrera affirms that “Amazonian Indigenous peoples have their own stories about who they are, where they came from, who were their leaders, how their first contact with ‘mestizos’ went and about the events they have experienced, generally with a lot of violence and suffering, and that has generated changes in their way of life and in the characteristics of the territories they occupy.”
The identity of Indigenous Peoples is attached to the land, language, traditional livelihoods, ceremonies, arts, crafts, and family members and society as a whole. The elders of the Ikíitu community, like Ema Llona Yareja, pictured above, provide a connection between generations, a crucial aspect of Indigenous Peoples’ wellbeing. She asserts, “(children) must learn, so that our language is not lost, from an early age they should receive education in the Ikíitu language”. In areas of high cultural and economic exchange like the Nanay river basin, Indigenous cultures are at risk of being lost. “The Nanay basin, where the community of San Antonio is located, is subjected to processes of cultural and economic exchange with western society. The pressures riverside communities face create challenges that must be confronted to safeguard the well-being of their families, the forest, water and, above all, the right to stand firm before illegal actions,” says former Nature and Culture Peru Country Director, Patricia Ochoa.
View the full comic here!
The Ikíitu people have a cultural richness, which to this day persists in their daily customs.
Utensils and tools, fishing techniques, knowledge of medicinal plants, knowledge of the forest for hunting, cultivation of their farms are all pieces of knowledge that are preserved in the rich culture of the Ikíitu people. In addition to documenting their native language, the “El Última Kuraka” comic also records some of the customs and artifacts that are used to this day, including garments, pottery and cooking utensils.
Supporting Indigenous communities in conserving nature in their lands requires recognition of their lived experiences and world visions. By documenting the culture and history of the Ikíitu people, we are helping to preserve not only their way of life, but also the sustainable practices that have been passed down through generations. They have been great stewards of their ancestral lands and we are working alongside the elders in the community to ensure future generations will have the same local knowledge and support to continue to protect these sacred places.
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